BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (MainStreet) -- With the holiday season comes some of the year's busiest travel days, and passengers face sold-out flights, scaled-back services and inevitable delays that compound an already taxing airline experience. For those who usually fly business class through their work or preferential airline status, busier flights mean less likely chances of upgrades even for those with all the frequent-flier miles and status in the world.
For those facing the prospect of a transcontinental flight in coach, here's a game plan to make the most of the experience even if you happen to be seated at the very back of the plane.
Even for those who usually fly business class, busier flights mean upgrades are less likely and time in coach all but inevitable.
Book your seat ASAP
Always confirm your seat at the time of ticket purchase -- before you even hang up the phone or leave the Web page -- for the best possible seats. Be sure to note the specifics of your flight, specifically what type of aircraft is used for the service (usually listed on the actual reservation page). This information is a must for using Web sites such as Seatguru, which can help you find the best seats in any class as well as avoid seats that might be too close to the bathroom, offer the least amount of legroom or perhaps don't recline due to their proximity to exits.
Window in the front
As a practice, it's usually best for sleepers to opt for a window seat. It enables you to rest your head and not be bothered by neighbors asking you to get up so they can use the bathroom. Even if you hate asking others to move, the Darwinian world of airline seating means that he who sits next to the window often rests the best. Also, try to get as close as possible to the front of the plane; the rear tends to be louder and suffer more pronounced in-flight movement.
Want to sleep on the plane? Before you board, forgo that lazy breakfast or dinner for a pre-flight workout. Hit your local gym or, if you're already in transit, find out about nearby gyms or airport hotels with fitness centers within walking distance of the terminal. Once you're there, do a strenuous mix of cardio and full-body weight training that will stimulate your entire body and make the idea of falling asleep, even in 54C, an enticing one.
Plan your outfit
Once you had to dress to impress to fly. Now it's best to dress for comfort and convenience. If you plan to make a fashion statement on the gangway, make it with a trench coat or jacket over a more comfortable ensemble or opt for a change of clothes that will make sleeping more tolerable. Choose loose-fitting and breathable fabrics and try to avoid clothing such as tight jeans, chunky belts or poly-blend sweaters that can restrict movement and your body's ability to regulate temperature while you sleep.
Invest in a neck pillow
Before you turn your nose up at the innumerable airport kiosks selling travel accouterments, know that a neck rest is one of the most important amenities you can invest in to ensure a proper in-flight snooze. A nodding head coming in and out of sleep is a sure sign improper neck support is inhibiting your ability to fall into a proper rest. Buy a necl rest with maximum support but that is also soft to touch. Try the
, which offer head support while in an upright or reclined position for as little as $19.99.
>>The Busiest Flying Day of the Year
Earplugs vs. earphones
They seem to be everywhere these days, those noise-canceling headphones that fill the cabin with chunky silhouettes emblazed with fancy logos for upward of $100 each. For those who like a simulated noise-canceling background they are a must-have item. The downside is that their stout design makes it difficult to rest the head at an angle without discomfort or the headphones simply falling off. Others would be wise to invest in a simple pair of everyday silicon earplugs. They can be a life-saver when properly used: rolled tightly into the ear canal to create a firm seal.
To drink or not to drink
It seems that every fashion magazine and morning show is of the opinion alcohol should be avoided while flying. But saying no to a flight attendant bearing an open bar on a transcontinental flight may be too much to ask. Instead of swearing off the good stuff for an uncertain night's sleep, opt for moderation and go with whatever you normally drink at home -- no overindulging just because it's free. Do, however, avoid caffeinated drinks and sodas, and don't be afraid to ask for an extra bottle of water to aid in rehydrating during the flight.
Keep your routine
In lieu of thinking of a long-haul flight as some kind of seated detention, look at it as a hotel stay in the smallest room you've ever booked. If you normally watch TV before bed, do so in the exact same way, followed by a change into your favorite pajamas, a brush of the teeth, a night moisturizer and sleeping aid -- if that's what you're accustomed to. Sleeping pills prescribed for other reasons or in the wrong doses can simply make you more tired and less able to adapt to sleep once you're on the ground. Consistency will put your body at ease and likely better able to rest, even for 10 hours in the most crowded and unpleasant airplane cabins of the holiday season.
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Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.